Carissa's App Picks for Kids

Carissa's App Picks for Kids

Old Man's Journey
Reviewed on 09/11/17
Paid

Invite kids to take a journey with an old man in this beautiful, calming app. Follow along with this wordless story and help the old man move through his journey by raising and lowering hills. As the old man reaches resting spots, he reflects back on his life in memory scenes. Parents should be aware that death via illness (not the old man) is an element of the game, but the ultimate ending is uplifting. The game was not created for children, but the self-determined pace, the simple game mechanics, the calming soundtrack and the gorgeous artwork add up to a great game for parents and children to play together. In fact, playing from the perspective of the old man might just give your kids a little more empathy or might spark some interesting conversations between the two of you!

See all apps for age group: Grades 3-5, Grades 6-8, Grades 9-12
For platform: Android, iOS
Love you to Bits
Reviewed on 09/11/17
Paid

Although the game begins with Kosmo’s robot girlfriend, Nova, getting blasted into pieces that are scattered throughout the galaxy, this game is actually charmingly cute and relaxing to play. The goal of the game is to travel throughout the universe helping Kosmo to collect pieces of Nova as well as mementos of their relationship that will help to restore her memories of them together when she’s been rebuilt. Each planet that Kosmo travels to has a different scenario, but most of them are fairly familiar (like a children’s park or a library) with a few extraterrestrial elements (robot dogs, aliens of all sorts, etc.). Parents should be aware that one of the searches takes place in a bar, but it’s fairly tame (there is mellow banjo music on this level) and a few of the side characters shoot laser guns. Also, the front page of the app allows access to social media, so keep an eye on this unless you want your twitter feed to suddenly be all about this game. This is a fun one for kids and parents to play together!

See all apps for age group: Grades K-2, Grades 3-5, Grades 6-8
For platform: iOS
Monument Valley 2
Reviewed on 09/11/17
Paid

One of the best games in app-land now has a sequel! This app was not specifically created for children, but it’s kid-safe and a wonderful app for kids and adults to use together.  Since the first Monument Valley game came out years ago, other companies have been trying to copy it, using similar design elements and color schemes and dreamy music, but nothing has ever been quite as good as the original until now.  This sequel has all of the beloved elements of Monument Valley (mind-twisting 3D labyrinths, sherbet colors, self-pacing and a thread of a storyline), and it builds on those in ways that brought gasps of delight from both me and my son when we played through it together. You’ll see new friends, old friends, and encounter new game twists that keep the whole concept fresh and new.  If you liked Monument Valley, you will not be disappointed in Monument Valley 2.

See all apps for age group: Grades K-2, Grades 3-5, Grades 6-8
For platform: iOS
Sago Mini Hat Maker
Reviewed on 08/28/17
Paid

Design a fancy hat for your Sago Mini friends -- you can even try the hat on your own head!  In this app, kids become the hat maker.  Each customer arrives (a standard collection of Sago Mini characters plus a new introduction: Larry the Log!) and users are given a few standard hat shapes to choose from (bowler? Top hat? Fedora? A swirl of soft serve ice cream?). Next, the hat maker can cut stencil shapes or cut with a scissors to change the shape of the hat and then change the print (polka dots? Stars? Sprinkles?) of the hat material and paint whatever design onto the hat that they desire.  Last, there are some accessories to add and finally, your character and the new hat are ready for their photo!  Choose a backdrop or choose to try the hat on yourself and snap a picture!  Before they leave the shop, don’t forget to ring up their purchase on the cash register!  As always, great opportunities for creative play by Sago Mini!

See all apps for age group: Baby/toddler, Preschool
For platform: Android, iOS
Stop, Breathe & Think Kids
Reviewed on 08/28/17
Freemium (free w/ paid upgrade)

Introduce your child to mindfulness and meditation through this playful, contemplative app.  When you open your account, you can create profiles for multiple children.  Each time you use it, choose which profile you want to enter, then you can choose from a list of all the possible meditations (“missions”) or you can “find a mission” by selecting up to 3 emotions from a provided emoji-style list which the app then will use to choose a meditation for you. Mission categories include predictable topics like Quiet, Focus and Sleep, but there are also Energizing meditations and ones you can use in case of a Meltdown.  The meditations range from about 2-6 minutes long and a simple animation is shown during the meditation to give kids something to look at and focus on while they’re trying out this technique.  The animations feature different animal characters (plus a cloud, a raisin, and a yeti -- all appropriate images for the particular meditation).  When the meditation is done playing, kids are asked once again to choose three emojis to describe how they’re feeling now and then they are given a virtual “sticker” (which just goes onto a sticker page, more like a badge -- it can’t be moved around). This emoji exercise is a great way to get kids talking about different nuances of emotion beyond just “happy” and “sad.” The app is based on the mindfulness games developed by Susan Kaiser Greenland and if you like what you see in the app, she’s written a whole book of mindfulness “games” for children.  The app is free to download and use over 15 meditation options, but if you want to unlock and access ALL of the meditations in their library, there is a subscription fee.  There is also a web-based version of the app.

See all apps for age group: Baby/toddler, Preschool, Grades K-2
For platform: iOS